Written by:

Holly Macdonald


March 9, 2024

In recent years, there has been immense growth in the number of training courses organizations offer.  Organizations provide more training than ever to customers, volunteers, and employees to close skill gaps, educate people, and sell more products.  However, while the immediate solution in these situations is often to ‘create a new training course,’ is that the best solution?  How do you know if you should create a new training course or provide a job aid, coaching, or a link to a YouTube video?  And if you decide to make a new course, should that be an online training course?

Below, we answer all these questions and more so you can decide whether you’ll add to the $500 billion expected spending on training courses in 2026 alone and when, and when not to create online training courses.

Examples When You Might Need A New Training Course?

Experts estimate that in 2026, nearly $500 billion will be spent worldwide on training courses in 2026.  So, there are many situations where an organization deems it necessary to develop a new training course.  Examples include the following:

  • Introduction of New Products or Services: When an organization launches new products, services, or technologies, it may need to develop training courses to educate employees or its customers on features, benefits, and usage
  • Changes in Processes or Procedures: If an organization updates its processes, procedures, or workflows, it may require training courses to ensure that employees or volunteers understand and adapt to the changes effectively
  • Compliance Requirements: Regulatory changes may dictate that you need a new training course or that existing ones need updating to ensure compliance with laws, regulations, and industry standards. This includes training on safety protocols, data privacy, and ethical practices.
  • Skill Gaps and Performance Improvement: Identifying skill gaps among employees or performance issues within teams may prompt the organization to develop targeted training courses to address deficiencies and enhance employee capabilities.
  • Onboarding and Orientation: When new employees join the organization, providing comprehensive onboarding and orientation training courses can help them acclimate to their roles, responsibilities, and the organization’s culture and values.
  • Leadership and Management Development: Developing employee leadership and management skills is often critical for organizational growth and succession planning. Developing training courses on leadership development, coaching, and team management can help cultivate these capabilities.
  • Customer Service Excellence: Improving customer service quality and satisfaction may require an organization to develop training courses on communication skills, empathy, problem-solving, and conflict-resolution techniques—or develop courses related to new product features or services.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Organizations committed to fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace may create training courses to raise awareness, promote understanding, and cultivate inclusive behaviors among employees.
  • Technology Adoption and Digital Transformation: Embracing new technologies and undergoing digital transformation often necessitates training courses to ensure that employees are proficient in using digital tools, platforms, and systems effectively.
  • Education And Behavioural Changes: Many organizations have a mandate that includes educating segments of society to create behavioral changes.  Educating their target audience by developing training courses can be a way to produce the changes they desire.

Organizations can enhance skills, knowledge, and performance by creating new training courses tailored to these specific needs and objectives, ultimately driving business success and growth or changes in society.


No prescriptive rules determine if you should or shouldn’t develop a new training course to solve a particular problem.  However, there are a few guidelines to consider before automatically launching and investing time and valuable resources in creating a new training course.

Multiple Steps In A Process

If you have a process with multiple steps and the context behind why it needs to be done in a certain way, a new training course is often a good solution.  While there are other (non-course solutions), if there are too many things and essential details for someone to remember or the topic is complex, a training course is often a good solution.  Examples would include:

  • Learning a new software system with many convoluted processes or steps
  • Training on a medical procedure where the consequences of doing it incorrectly could be significant or costly
  • Regulatory-related courses that include completing legal or licensing applications
  • Compliance-related training courses for technical or manufacturing processes, for instance, cleaning production equipment in a factory where they need it to be allergen-free or safe

How To Do Something That Has Many Possible Options

While we think that technology has automated business, the reality is that many minor decision points in most jobs frequently occur.  And some potential outcomes might have significant consequences if learned the ‘hard way.’  Examples might include

  • How to respond to diverse customer or public queries or requests
  • Management conversations about profitability
  • Public education, such as for energy conservation

Creating a formal training course can include options of do’s and don’t and can consist of real-life scenarios and role plays, enabling the learner to get lots of practice and feedback.

Consistency Of Behaviour

If there is a consistent way to respond to situations, having a training course can significantly improve the standardization and consistency of responses.  Having people trained on the job by others in such situations can result in biases or incorrect information conveyed.  Similarly, if you need consistent execution of tasks or brand messaging, putting the resources into creating a new training course is often worth it.

The consistency of training courses is also vital in behavior change situations, as it teaches people the right way to sort their recycling, how to comply with regulations in boat operations, and how to conduct a safety investigation for instance.

Boring But Necessary Info

If there is a situation where there are a lot of necessary but perhaps boring details to be communicated to many people over time, creating an online course can be an excellent way to cover these.  Examples include onboarding or orientation processes for new employees, volunteers, or customers.

Significant Consequences

A new training course is often necessary when the consequences of doing something incorrectly are high.  It could include a lot of hands-on, extremely experiential learning, and it’s a classic situation that needs a training course.  Often with several layers of testing involved.  Examples include flight simulations working with manufacturing machinery or medical equipment.

Disadvantages Of Developing A New Training Course

The reaction of many people to a situation that demands performance improvements, increasing knowledge, acquiring a new skill, or understanding a new process is to order a new training course.  However, this isn’t always the best solution.  There are some disadvantages to developing a training course, including:

  • Cost: Training courses can be expensive to create and, depending upon the type of course, can involve additional costs of travel, accommodation, and other materials
  • Time Commitment: Participating in training courses requires a significant time commitment, which can be challenging for individuals with busy schedules or conflicting priorities. Balancing work, family obligations, and other commitments alongside coursework can be onerous.
  • One-Size-Fits-All Approach: Many training courses follow a standardized curriculum and teaching format, which may not accommodate individual preferences or needs. It can lead to disengagement or frustration among learners who do not thrive in the course structure.
  • Outdated Content: Some training courses may not be regularly updated to reflect the latest industry trends, technologies, or best practices. This can result in learners acquiring outdated or irrelevant knowledge and skills that are not applicable.
  • Lack of Follow-Up Support: After completing a training course, learners may lack ongoing support, feedback, or reinforcement to sustain their learning and development efforts. It can diminish the long-term impact of the training and hinder skill retention and application.
  • Urgency: A training course might not provide timely assistance in urgent situations requiring a quick solution or response. Alternative options like consulting with experts or seeking immediate support could be more appropriate.
  • Lack of Commitment: If there is a lack of motivation or commitment to fully engage with the training course, it may not yield significant results. In such cases, exploring alternative ways to build skills or address challenges might be more productive.
  • Pre-existing Solutions: Sometimes, your problem may have existing solutions or resources within your organization or online communities. In such cases, investing time in researching and leveraging existing resources might be more efficient than pursuing a new training course.

Other Training Solutions

In certain circumstances, when it’s not worthwhile creating a new training course, what options do you have?   It would be best if you did a solid needs analysis when looking at the best solution for your problem to identify precisely where the problem stems.  Then, an appropriate solution can be found.  Below are additional options to consider once you’ve completed the needs assessment.

  • Availability of Existing Courses: In a few cases, existing training courses might already cover the desired topic or address many of the identified learning needs. Perhaps you can use part of an existing course or look to other organizations with an ‘off-the-shelf’ product for most of your needs.
  • Effective Performance Management: You can also effectively address performance-related concerns within teams or departments through performance management processes, feedback mechanisms, and similar interventions.  Creating a new training course may not be necessary.
  • Job Aides: Creating simple job aides for less extensive knowledge acquisition can help people understand and complete tasks.  It is common in corporate settings where ‘quick refresher guides’ can be posted or circulated.
  • Videos: Perhaps a training course isn’t necessary, but having a helpful instructional video produced (or sourced on YouTube!) might be all that is required.
  • Mentorship or Coaching: Seeking guidance from a mentor or coach with expertise in the area you want to improve can provide personalized support, feedback, and advice tailored to your needs.  It can be highly effective if the number of people requiring support is low.
  • Peer Learning: Collaborating with colleagues or joining professional networks or communities where you can share knowledge, exchange ideas, and learn from each other’s experiences can be a valuable source of learning and support.
  • Drip Campaign: You can circulate information regularly in small (‘Drip’) segments instead of creating a new course via email, intranet, or other sources.  These can be great reminders for people and provide a good refresher.
  • Project-Based Learning: Engaging in hands-on projects or real-world challenges related to your area of interest or expertise can provide practical learning experiences and opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge in a meaningful context.
  • Job Rotation or Shadowing: Exploring different roles or departments within your organization through job rotation or shadowing can help you gain diverse experiences, perspectives, and skills without formal training.

Building a new training course to solve a knowledge or learning gap is not always necessary.  These alternatives offer flexible, personalized, and often cost-effective options for creating a training course.  Depending on your preferences, goals, and resources, you can explore and combine these options to make a learning strategy that best fits your needs.  In reality, in most situations, there is a need for an integrated approach, and an excellent instructional designer will put together the best combination of instructional tools to address the training need.  This may include a training course and several of the above options.  However, not all perceived training solutions involve building a course or the necessity to create online training courses.

When Are Online Training Courses The Best Option?

While developing a training course may be a good option, online training courses can be the best choice in many situations.  They offer numerous advantages for learners and address some disadvantages of providing a face-face only training course.  Below are the benefits of online training courses to consider when deciding whether or not to create a course:

  • Flexibility: Online training courses allow learners to access content anytime, anywhere, and at their own pace. This convenience is ideal for individuals with busy schedules, varying time zones, or other commitments that make attending in-person classes challenging.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: With lower ongoing costs compared to traditional classroom-based training, to create online training courses can be less expensive despite requiring an initial investment. Additionally, learners can save on transportation, accommodation, and other associated costs, making online training a cost-effective option.
  • Accessibility: Online training courses break down geographical barriers, enabling learners from diverse backgrounds and locations to access high-quality education. This accessibility is especially beneficial for individuals living in remote areas or those with limited access to traditional educational institutions.  And there is 24/7 access to these resources.
  • Wide Range of Topics: By designing custom online training courses, a vast array of courses covering diverse subjects, from technical skills like programming and data analysis to soft skills like leadership and communication, can be developed.
  • Interactive Learning Tools: Many custom online training courses utilize interactive elements such as quizzes, simulations, and multimedia content to engage learners and enhance the learning experience. These interactive tools can make complex topics more digestible and enjoyable to learn.
  • Updates and Refreshers: In rapidly evolving fields like technology and business, creating online training courses has the advantage of being easily updated to include the latest trends, tools, and practices.
  • Personalized Learning Experience: Now, online training courses employ adaptive learning algorithms that tailor course content and assessments to individual learners’ strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge. This personalized approach maximizes learning outcomes by focusing on areas where learners need the most improvement.
  • Priming: Online training courses can help prime people to be ready to perform.  The launch of a course can also be an indicator of expectations.
  • Realistic Practice: An online course can also provide practice in a low-risk environment. Even if it’s a “soft skill,” you can help people practice with realistic scenarios and subtle suggestions to reflect on how they would respond.  This mental rehearsal can be very effective.

online training course graphic

Online training courses are an excellent option if learners require flexibility, affordability, accessibility, and personalized learning experiences.

When Online Training Courses Aren’t A Good Option

Despite all the benefits that online training courses offer, they may not always be the best solution for every situation.  Below are some considerations when looking to create online training courses and when they might not be the ideal option:

  • Hands-On Learning Requirements: Effectively conveying some subjects, such as specific technical skills or practical trades, requiring hands-on experience can be difficult through online courses alone. In such cases, in-person training, workshops, or apprenticeships may be more appropriate and could be blended with an online training course.
  • Lack of Self-Discipline: Online training courses rely heavily on self-motivation and self-discipline to complete coursework and stay engaged with the material. Learners who struggle with time management or staying focused without direct supervision may find it more challenging to succeed.
  • Technical Limitations: Access to reliable internet connections, compatible devices, and some technical proficiency are essential for participating in online training courses. Learners facing barriers such as poor internet connectivity, outdated technology, or limited digital literacy may struggle to engage with the content thoroughly.

While online training courses offer many benefits, they may not suit every learning situation.   Consider your specific requirements and circumstances when deciding whether to create online courses.

Help Deciding How To Choose

Deciding on the best method to address an unmet training need or gap depends on your specific circumstances.  Should you create a training course, or will some job aides with additional performance support suffice?  Or would it be more beneficial to create online training courses, or do you need a blended option of instructional products?

Balancing these complex decisions between resources, timelines and other restrictions your organization may have, is difficult.  And it requires completing a suitable needs analysis of the situation.  This is where a good instructional designer can be worth their weight in gold.  However, being able to find a trusted instructional designer who will tell you that you shouldn’t pay them to create a custom online course but instead develop an inexpensive job aid can be hard to find.  Fortunately, a series of resources below can help you in this regard.

training course consultation button

Final Thoughts – Do You Really Need A New Training Course?

Undoubtedly, the increase worldwide in new training courses organizations provide is primarily a good thing.  Educating the public, employees, and volunteers is good practice.  But you can also overdo it.  Creating new online training courses is the best solution in many situations, but not in every situation.  Now you know some of the parameters for considering whether a new training course is needed or if there are more straightforward and cost-effective so